Every year thousand of automotive enthusiasts and shop owners from all over head to some of the biggest performance automotive events to get their fix. As you walk into some of these venues you are completely overwhelmed by its vast size and the thousands of cars and products that line the floors, row after row, after row. It’s mind boggling. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, there are cars and trucks of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s not the common car or truck that sticks out. Sure, there might be a wicked ’69 Camaro with an insane amount of work done and a killer LS powerplant, but at the end of the day it’s just another Camaro. But every now and then you will run across a vehicle that is so uncommon, so unique – maybe it’s a vehicle that was overlooked because it’s never been that popular in the first place. It takes someone with a vision and the skills to make it stand out in a crowd.
This 1978 DJ-5 Postal Jeep is a prime example of something that is just outside the norm. Think about it. You never see anyone driving these things up and down the road unless they are paid to do so and for a good reason I might add. They are tiny, basic, and in their factory form, ugly. So who in their right mind would take a DJ-5 righthand drive Jeep and convert it into one of the coolest Jeeps ever?
Meet Tim Jackson, the 37 year old owner of Jackson Automotive in Sealy, TX and the proud owner of this awesome ride. After a scare with an LS-swapped Mustang he decided to sell it and get back into rock crawling. Tim needed a Jeep in his life and it was at this time when he ran across not one, but two of the DJ-5’s and he thought, “why not.” After all, he only needed the sheetmetal and a frame to get the project going. Everything else on the Jeep was going to be custom fabricated. Tim has always had a knack for modifying vehicles that could still handle getting the groceries and dropping the kids off at school. The thought of driving a mail jeep over some pretty gnarly rocks and terrain put a smile on his face and he couldn’t help but purchase the two Jeeps.
The story behind the engine adds a little more uniqueness to Tim’s Jeep. It’s the same Turbo LQ4 that was in the Mustang that gave Tim a scare when it lost traction and got out of hand at the 1,000ft mark. The Stang still rolled through the beams at 9.20 at 124 mph. So if you’re losing sleep at night because your car scared you, what should one do? Obviously, you should sell the car, but keep the twin-turbo monster and stick it in a mail Jeep.
According to Tim, one of the S366’s was ditched from the twin setup but the other turbo remains. We are unsure if he did this to tone the 408 cubic-inch stroker down or if he just didn’t have enough room to keep them both under the hood. We are betting on the latter part of that statement for the simple fact that the Jeep has a nitrous system on it. The engine is an iron block stuffed with Wiseco forged pistons that are mated with a set of Callies rods and crank. The 317 heads have been ported and a sheet-metal intake sits on top on top with a water-meth setup to cool down that hot air charge.
Tim relies on the battle proven TH400 with a PTC converter to get the Jeep rolling. Power is transferred through a 4.3 Atlas transfer case which drives the ’05 Ford Super Duty front axle with a Yukon Grizzly locker and the GM 14-bolt spooled rear. The 4.88 gears are tamed a bit due to the enormous 40×13.5×17-inch Maxxis Trepadors tires wrapped around a set of Dirty Life 17×9-inch beadlocks. To calm this beast over the rough terrain Tim chose a set of ORI 14-inch struts and steering duties are handled by all PSC products including the pump, orbital and ram. Artec weld-on steering arms and ram mount tied everything together on the Jeep for bulletproof reliability.
Some of the challenges with this build are pretty obvious. The factory wheelbase was stretched from the super compact 81 inches to a much more stable 110 inches and the wheelwells had to be cut and modified just to get the seats in position. If you think jamming a V8 and TH400 in place of the 4-cylinder and 3-speed wasn’t enough of a challenge, try adding a turbo system to up the ante. It makes for a super cramped engine bay but all of the reliability and power of the turbo LS made the headache worth it.
According to Tim the front fenders were built to move the wheel openings forward as well as the rear corner guards. This modification allowed the wheelbase to be stretched out about 30 inches for wheel and tire clearance. The DJ-5’s cowl had a small amount of rust and the floors had to be completely removed and fabricated to accommodate the new and improved powertrain. Tim added, “ there was very little body work to be done to the Jeep and I handled all of the painting duties as well.” Naturally the color combo for this piece of American made machinery had to be the good ole’ red white and blue. Being a self proclaimed, “rattle can ninja,” Tim laid the white down with a good ol’ can of Rustoleum. The blue is a Gillespie brand paint that was intended for older U.S. Navy vehicles that worked perfectly for the Jeep. The paint was topped off with a roll-on flat clear and all of this took place over a weekend. After all, this Jeep is going places that $5,000 paint jobs should not venture. Wrap this cool little project up with some decals and it looks like it could haul the mail up the side of the Grand Tetons.
Tim did all of the work by himself but, he did have some help from a couple of people in the parts area. The guy’s over at Randy’s Ring and Pinon took care of all of the gearing needs with Yukon products and the gang at Artec provided some discounted pieces as they were needed on this project. Tim stated, “I have a number of wholesale accounts for most of my parts. Other than that, I try not to ask for help, but I will hint at it!”
We’re willing to bet that if these companies would have been able to see the vision that Tim had, they would have been more than happy to help out with whatever was needed. The LS Mail Jeep is a killer combination of craftsmanship, skill and vision. Tim’s future plans are to “wheel it without destroying it.” We hope that’s the case but we will just have to see how that goes.